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CNN Today

The Florida Recount: Election may Hinge on Overseas Military Ballots

Aired November 10, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: As we've reported, military personnel posted overseas could end up as the deciding factor in the Florida presidential race, tipping the state's 25 electoral votes to Bush or Gore.

More on the military vote now from CNN's Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the election so close in Florida, it's conceivable the decisive votes may have been cast by U.S. troops far from home, like this soldier pulling peacekeeping duty at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The overseas votes and absentee ballots are really going to make a difference. At least I hope they will.

MCINTYRE: No one really knows how many troops voted absentee in Florida or how many ballots from overseas are still in the mail. Florida has a 10-day grace period for ballots postmarked by Election Day. And nobody really knows how the military vote split. While conventional wisdom holds that military officers are more likely to vote Republican, that may not be as true for enlisted personnel, who make up the vast majority of the military. They tend to be younger, poorer and more ethnically diverse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did vote for Vice President Gore to become the next president of the United States. And right now, thinking that if my vote was the one that pushed him over the top and gave him the 25 electoral votes from the state of Florida, that would just be unbelievable.

MCINTYRE: Florida, which has no state income tax, is popular with the U.S. military. More than 10 percent of the military, roughly 176,000 troops, are legal Floridians, eligible to cast absentee ballots. Voting is a challenge for troops, who may request absentee ballots in plenty of time, only to be dispatched to some global hot spot, with little notice and no time to file a change of address.

KEN BACON, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: There will be people who fall between the cracks; it's unfortunate.

MCINTYRE: But even if service members don't get their local ballot, they can still vote in federal elections using a standard form. Thousands of those forms were sent with the carrier battle group that included the USS Cole. Ironically, the attack on the Cole brought the crew home in time to vote in person.

(on camera): The Pentagon is experimenting with ways to make it easier for overseas troops to cast absentee ballots in the future. This year, in a small pilot program, 84 military members voted over the Internet, 52 of them casting their e-ballots in Florida.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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